Sunday, September 11, 2016

Don't Let the Wrong Thing Define You

This was the one that defined us. They had their own stories.

The Great Depression.

Pearl Harbor and World War II.

The Vietnam War.

And then ours.

Until we had one, I rather envied people their stories. Awful, isn't it? I so admired people who lived on a crust of bread and watery coffee for a week. I wished I could crawl into those books and wear those shoes, see those dapper men in their hats.

It sounded a bit romantic to be holed up in a room with all your family, cousins and uncles, lit by flickering candles, listening to a radio with Churchill crackling inspiration.

I've never been to a ticker-tape parade. Celebrating the end of war.

The indignation of the Vietnam War era. This, among all, was the most empowering of the old stories. Young people mattered. They wore berets and took off their bras and linked arms with black people and played guitar at huge open-air concerts.

Man, I wanted in on that!

I was rather embarrassed and disappointed to be growing up in a time of relative peace, with great strides toward equality, ATMs and Michael Jackson, the pies and parades to remember other people's stories. No stories of our own.

I was home with my babies. The television couldn't be right. My husband left with my brother to get my sister-in-law, who was working downtown. I called my old office in New York. I could hear the rustle of panicked papers behind him. The hours passed in grey.

The next day we drove down Pulaski with nowhere to go. The air was positively stifled. I remember thinking somewhere along that drive that now I was the grown-up. This was my disaster to recover from. And, more ominously, maybe this was my fault. I looked up at the sky, and nothing but sky replied.

Others will write today, and forever, about the war on terror, about Bush's greatness and Bush's weakness, about who did this to us and who we blamed. There are those stories to tell, and stories of individual worry and fear, of heroes and fallen angels.

I never understood the old stories until we had our own. Like ours, the old stories are, for the tellers, not movie-tinged memoirs of fine fashion and the abstract of how character is built by fire. They share with us, yes, the sheer blur and pain of attack, the white-hot understanding - in an instant - of how precious and fragile life is. They have their anonymous magnificents, like we do, and we all know how real evil is, how close it can come. It can touch you, and you can respond.

And you can respond.

It's in the how that we define ourselves. That is the real story. Let's make ours a good one, shall we?

No comments:

Post a Comment